You need a part for a pool cleaner, filter, pump or whatever. Moving right along, you go online, pull up the parts diagram, find the part and then you notice you have two options, OEM (original equipment manufacturer) or generic. Now you are in the horns of a dilemma. The OEM part is sooo much more expensive you can only assume that means better quality. . . but could that cheaper generic part work just as well AND save you some money?
I wish there was a simple yes or no answer to that question but there are a few variables. Let’s start with some generalizations about the most popular generic replacement pool parts.
Topping the list is generic filter cartridges. OEM cartridges are costly and apt to make owners of larger filters feel faint when it comes time to replace three or four at one time. For years, we have carried the top generic brands – Unicel, Filbur and Pleatco – and have had an excellent success rate overall. Some customers are still devoted to OEM and will buy no other, but I estimate over 80% purchase generics to keep some hard earned cash in their pockets. Properly maintained, generic cartridges provide the same filtration as OEM. And truth be known, some OEM cartridges are contracted out to the very same companies that make the generic ones.
Another popular category for OEM vs. generic is automatic pool cleaner parts. Here is where some real savings kick in. To use the Zodiac G3 cleaner as an example, generic versions of the diaphragm, foot pad and finned disk are about half the price of the OEM parts. The same holds true for Aquabot robotic cleaner parts and in fact we carry only generics for some of these. We have found customers to be satisfied with the quality of most generic cleaner parts.
Moving onto pump shaft seals, I see no reason to buy OEM unless there is simply no other option. Not only are generic seals just as good but they can even be better as some manufacturers offer versions with greater resistance to chemicals and salt chlorine systems. Using carbon graphite, stainless steel and Viton rubber, the generic seals labelled as “heavy duty” are more durable than their OEM counterparts.
Generic manufacturer improvements can be found in pump and skimmer baskets too. Typically labelled as “heavy duty”, they are made of of thicker material than the OEM versions for increased durability. One such manufacturer, Custom Molded Products, told me that they incorporate changes suggested by pool service pros into their designs. This is a major advantage that smaller generic parts manufacturers have over the big OEM manufacturers. They can more easily incorporate design changes and do it for less.
Finally, there are o-rings of all kinds. To be honest, some OEM prices for a round piece of rubber can border on the ridiculous. In the vast majority of cases, we’ve found generic o-rings to be just as reliable as OEM. If you have the option to buy generic versions, I would recommend doing so and saving yourself a few bucks.
Here are a couple caveats to the overall positive rating for generic parts. There are quality differences from one generic manufacturer to another. As a retailer, we have seen issues with some generic products such as salt cells, pump lids and some of the cheaper filter cartridges. That is not to say you can’t still find a deal in those categories. Just do your homework. Check product reviews online and talk to fellow pool owners to see what products they’ve had success or failure with. We have many customer reviews on our site and post new ones regularly so be sure to use Inyo Pools as a valuable resource in deciding what parts to buy. A few extra minutes of research can end up saving you a lot of money.